Startup Blog

3 Big Mistakes You Make When Talking to Reporters

Posted by Mike Volpe on 2/27/09 1:09 PM

I just had a chat with a very sharp reporter from the New York Times.  I do an OK job of things like this, but I don't do it often enough or practice enough to be an expert.  But, from some media training, experience and talking to a couple experts, here are a few things I think most people get wrong when talking to the media.

3 Biggest Mistakes When Talking to the Media

  1. Try to be their best friend.  Everyone wants to be a useful resource to an influential reporter.  Most of the time people in the media are super time pressured.  While they might be the only New York Times reporter you are talking to this month, they are talking to another 5 people just like you today.  They don't need a friend, they need information and quotes.  Keep the chit chat to a minimum.
  2. Talk in long, detailed thoughts.  We all think we are really smart, and each of our thoughts need to have an introduction, body and conclusion.  The reality is that anything you say needs to be in bite size format to make it into an article.  Talk in soundbites, prepare a list of them if you have to.  Decide what 1-2 quotes you want in the article, write them out so that they look short enough to actually make it into the article, then repeat them each 2-3 times in the conversation.  Stick to your script, and you might have a shot at getting quoted.
  3. Send too much follow-up information.  Once the conversation was over, you probably mentioned 1-2 things that you should email to the reporter as a link.  But keep it just to that.  It is SO TEMPTING to send a laundry list of reasons why your company deserves to be on the home page, or other quotes for other potential future stories.  But, doing that is like calling someone 2 hours after your first date and planning your next 5 dates.  Scary... Too much, too soon.  Keep it on topic, and then re-approach in a couple months once you have something new to talk about.

What mistakes do you think people make when talking to reporters?

Mike Volpe

Written by Mike Volpe

Mike Volpe is a startup advisor and angel investor based in Boston.

Topics: public relations (PR)

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